Bunting, Ronald (‘Ronnie’) (1947–80), republican, was born into a middle-class Belfast protestant family. His father, Maj. Ronald Bunting, a close associate of Ian Paisley (qv), achieved notoriety for organising an ambush on civil-rights marchers at Burntollet Bridge in January 1969. Ronnie chose a very different political path during his time in QUB. He played an active role in the radical People's Democracy movement in the late 1960s, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Eamonn McCann, before joining the Official IRA. In January 1972 Bunting became the first non-catholic to be interned under the special powers act since the resumption of internment in 1971. Released after a few months, he became increasingly disillusioned with the Official IRA cease-fire (declared on 29 May 1972), and was finally expelled from the movement at the end of 1973.
In December 1974 Bunting supported Séamus Costello (qv) in his efforts to create a new military organisation, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), which attracted many former Official IRA members. The INLA favoured the continuation of an armed struggle against British rule in Ireland, while espousing a radical left-wing agenda through their political wing, the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP). In the early months of 1975 a bitter feud erupted between the INLA and the Official IRA, and after a narrow escape in a shooting incident on 5 March 1975, Bunting fled to Wales and then Dublin. He returned to Belfast in late 1976 and took up command of the INLA in Belfast, living openly off the Falls Road.
The INLA was responsible for a number of attacks over the next few years, including the assassination of Airey Neave, MP, Margaret Thatcher's shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, on 30 March 1979 in the house of commons car park. Bunting joined the IRSP in 1979, and by June the following year was attending árd-chomhairle meetings, as well as actively engaging in the H-Block campaign for political status for republican prisoners. Bunting's position, however, was becoming increasingly precarious as he succeeded in making enemies on all sides. The loyalists denounced him as a protestant traitor, while the British authorities fully recognised the INLA's deadly potential. On the republican side, the feud with the Official IRA in 1975 left a legacy of bitterness, while others remained suspicious of Bunting because of his father's activities. Early on the morning of 15 October 1980, two men forced their way into the family home at 7 Downfine Gardens and shot dead Bunting and another IRSP member, Noel Lyttle. Bunting's wife Suzanne was also seriously wounded in the attack. No organisation ever claimed responsibility for the murder; republican claims of British army involvement were vehemently denied by the authorities. Controversy dogged Bunting even in death, with the IRSP seeking to stage a large republican funeral, while his father wanted a small family service. Maj. Bunting, with whom Ronnie had maintained cordial relations despite their political differences, won that particular battle, and his son was buried on 18 October 1980 in a small Church of Ireland graveyard near Donaghadee, Co. Down. Bunting was survived by his wife Suzanne and three children: Fiona, Deirdre, and Ronan. His death marked a watershed in the history of the INLA, which became increasingly fractious, engaging in a number of bloody internal feuds.